SC agrees to review judgment on CIC

Ensure independence of institutions

The Supreme Court on Thursday admitted the Centre’s plea to review its judgment which had stipulated that only sitting or retired chief justices of high courts or an apex court judge can head the Central and state information commissions.

While admitting the plea, a bench of justices A K Patnaik and Swatanter Kumar, however, made it clear its verdict for appointment of people from judicial background in information commissions was not aimed at rehabilitating judges but to make information panels independent of the government’s influence.

“Idea is not to rehabilitate judges but to ensure independence of the institutions,” the bench said adding “commissions must be headed by independent persons.”

The bench asked how a person, who is favoured by the government in appointment to the top position, can pass orders against the government.

“You have to ensure that the body is independent. You find people, who are in good books of the government, are appointed. How would those persons pass orders against the same authority who has appointed them,” the bench remarked.

“If Right to Information is to be effectively implemented then the commissions must be headed by a person independent of all authorities,” the bench said.

Agreeing to hear the Centre’s review petition, the bench issued notice to Namit Sharma, on whose plea the apex court had delivered its September 13 verdict.

The Centre had moved the apex court for review of its verdict saying it is against the provisions of the Right to Information Act.  

The apex court had held in its verdict that like other quasi judicial bodies, people from judicial background should be appointed as members of the Central and state information commissions and this should be done after consulting the CJI and chief justices of the respective high courts.

It had directed the government to amend RTI Act for it. “Chief Information Commissioner at the Centre or state level shall only be a person who is or has been a chief justice of the high court or a judge of the Supreme Court of India,” the court had said.

The bench had passed the order on a PIL challenging sections 12 and 15 of the Right to Information Act, 2005 enumerating the qualifications needed for the appointment of members of the commissions.

The bench, however, had refused to quash the sections but asked the government to modify it so that people from judicial background are also preferred for the post. The CIC comprises one Chief Information Commissioner and 10 information commissioners.

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